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Exploring Citizen Science

Jul 31, 2014, 11:34 AM, Posted by Christine Nieves

Christine Nieves / RWJF Christine Nieves, program associate

I remember the distinct feeling of learning about Foldit. It was a mixture of awe and hope for the potential breakthrough contributions a citizen can make towards science (without needing a PhD!). Foldit is an online puzzle video game about protein folding. In 2011, Foldit users decoded an AIDS protein that had been a mystery to researchers for 15 years. The gamers accomplished it in 3 weeks. When I learned this, it suddenly hit me; if we, society, systematically harness the curiosity of citizens, we could do so much!

This is the spirit behind our recent exploration to learn more about how citizen scientists are addressing some of the most pressing problems in health and health care.

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Another Step Toward Open Health Education

May 22, 2014, 8:00 AM, Posted by Michael Painter

Osmosis Logo Image credit: Knowledge Diffusion

This post was originally published on The Health Care Blog by Shiv Gaglani, Ryan Haynes, and Michael Painter, MD.

Earlier this month Shiv and Ryan published a piece in the Annals of Internal Medicine, entitled What Can Medical Education Learn from Facebook and Netflix? We chose the title because, as medical students, we realized the tools our classmates are using to socialize and watch TV use more sophisticated algorithms than the tools we use to learn medicine.

What if the same mechanisms that Facebook and Netflix use—such as machine learning-based recommender systems, crowdsourcing, and intuitive interfaces—could transform how we educate our health care professionals? For example, just as Amazon recommends products based on other items that customers have bought, we believe that supplementary resources such as questions, videos, images, mnemonics, references, and even real-life patient cases could be automatically recommended based on what students and professionals are learning in the classroom or seeing in the clinic. That is one of the premises behind Osmosis, the flagship educational platform of Knowledge Diffusion, Shiv’s and Ryan’s startup. Osmosis uses data analytics and machine learning to deliver the best medical content to those trying to learn it, as efficiently as possible for the learner. Since its launch in August, Osmosis has delivered over two million questions to more than 10,000 medical students around the world using a novel push notification system that syncs to student curricular schedules.

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Discover Positive Health: New Website Launches

May 9, 2014, 12:25 PM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

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Are you interested in the connection between physical and psychological health? Intrigued about how positive health assets may help us stay healthy and recover more quickly from illness? Looking for ways to stay up-to-speed on the latest research?

Check out the new Positive Health Research website, a valuable resource for those who are exploring the concept of positive health.

Some of the more recent research featured on the website includes:

  • A study into whether life satisfaction impacts how often someone visits the doctor
  • A study that found psychological well-being is associated with a reduced risk of hypertension

Over the past five years, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has funded research to help identify the health assets that produce stronger health, in collaboration with the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. This new website showcases the most promising research around the concept of positive health, providing evidence that has the potential to change the way we think about health and health care.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.

The Case for Journeying to the Center of Our Social Networks

May 5, 2014, 11:07 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

Dr_James_Fowler James Fowler, Professor of Medical Genetics and Political Science at UCSD

James Fowler is Professor of Medical Genetics and Political Science at the University of California, San Diego. His work lies at the intersection of the natural and social sciences, with a focus on social networks, behavior, evolution, politics, genetics, and big data. Together with RWJF grantee Nicholas Christakis, Fowler wrote a book on social networks for a general audience called Connected.

By James Fowler

In recent weeks, much has been made of David Lazer’s finding that Google’s Flu Trends tracker seriously missed the mark in its measurement of flu activity for 2012-2013—and in previous years, too. For those who don’t know, Flu Trends monitors Google search behaviors to identify regions where searches related to flu-like symptoms are spiking.

In spite of Flu Trend’s notable misstep, Lazer still believes in the power of marrying health and social data. In discussing the results of his study, he has maintained Google Flu is “a terrific” idea—one that just needs some refining. I agree.

And, earlier this month, Nicholas Christakis, several other colleagues, and I—with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—published a new method offering one such refinement. Our paper shows that, in a given social network (in this study’s case, Twitter), a sample of its most connected, central individuals can hold significant predictive power. We call this potentially powerful group of individuals a “sensor group.”

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Explore Opportunities and Trends at Health Datapalooza

Apr 28, 2014, 8:00 AM, Posted by Paul Tarini

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We’re a little over a month away from the 2014 Health Datapalooza (HDP) conference. For those of you who don’t know, HDP—an event of the Health Data Consortium, which RWJF supports—is a great venue to explore the opportunities and trends of open health data.

Trying to get a firm understanding of this space can be challenging, but HDP brings it all together. The conference has tracks focusing on the use of open data by businesses and consumers, in community and clinical settings, and for research purposes.

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Creating a Knowledge Map with Stanford Medical School

Mar 24, 2014, 1:00 PM, Posted by Michael Painter

Mike Painter, senior program officer Mike Painter, senior program officer

Why should I be in the same room with these people?

That’s one of the many smart questions participants posed at a Stanford Medical School meeting I attended last weekend.  If I had been daydreaming (I’d never do that), I might have thought the question was for me. You see, the participants were a handpicked set of national medical education experts, folks nominally from the status quo medical-education-industrial complex—the very thing we’re trying to change.

You might think that they embodied that dreaded status quo.  I’m happy to report they did not—not even close.  I’m also relieved to tell you that the question (in spite of my paranoia) wasn’t for me. Instead, it was one of many challenges these thoughtful, passionate teachers tossed at each other.

“Why are we in the room?” was a challenge to each other. Why and when should teachers be in the same room with the learners?

When you think about it, that’s actually a central question if you’re attempting to use online education to flip the medical education experience.  It’s also a brave one if you’re a teacher: justify the time you spend with your students.

Read the rest of this post on The Health Care Blog

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.

What Convinces College Students to Get Flu Vaccines?

Feb 24, 2014, 8:00 AM, Posted by Deborah Bae

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What convinces college students to get flu vaccines? Read the latest in our efforts to apply behavioral economics to perplexing health and health care problems.

Almost every college student knows that getting sick while at school will have negative effects on their grades and social life. So why do so many students forgo flu vaccinations that are readily available at almost every college health center? Researchers at Swarthmore College tested three approaches to motivate students to get a flu vaccine: a financial incentive, a peer endorsement via social networks, and an email that included an audio clip of a coughing individual to convey the consequence of not getting the vaccine. The researchers found that students offered as little as $10 were twice as likely to get a flu vaccination.

Read the full story

 

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.

Entrepreneurs and Underserved Communities: StartUp Health's New Accelerator

Feb 18, 2014, 8:00 AM, Posted by Paul Tarini

Members of the public stand at tables at a polling center, signing in to vote and have flu vaccinations

The past few years have been marked with a surge in health care business accelerators—programs that provide support to help health care entrepreneurs develop their ideas and raise initial funding. In tracking the success of these innovation hubs, we realized something was missing.

On the complex journey of taking a health care idea to market, most entrepreneurs aren’t seeing underserved communities—the people and the providers who serve them—as target markets. The result is that health care innovations are passing by some of the communities that could benefit the most from innovation. But what if we could help entrepreneurs see these patients and their providers as a viable market? What if we could make it easier for health care businesses to design solutions for the needs of our most vulnerable populations?

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One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Making Incentives Stick

Feb 14, 2014, 9:00 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

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By Emmy Ganos

I work for the country's largest foundation dedicated to health, but I have a secret. I have a huge problem staying away from my go-to comforts: macaroni and cheese, doughnuts, and most of all, the couch. I'm able to keep away from donuts most of the time, by exercising huge degrees of willpower on my way home from work each night (RIGHT PAST the Krispy Kreme). But by the time I get home, that's enough exercising for me, and I'm ready for my macaroni and my couch.

And, another secret, I barely exercise. About once a week, I walk for transportation around Philadelphia, and I walk fast. But that's the full extent of it for me. It is not uncommon for me to spend whole days on the couch -- with a great book and my cat on my lap, working on my laptop, or binge-watching HBO with my husband. I rarely exercise at work--despite free exercise classes and a free gym. 

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How Can We Help People Get More Sleep?

Feb 12, 2014, 8:00 AM, Posted by Lori Melichar

Hairdresser Sleeping Hairdresser takes a break during work. Image courtesy of epSos.de.

How’d you sleep last night?

Like many Americans, I’m a mother of small children. And like many Americans, I have a full time job with a long commute, from New York City to Princeton, New Jersey. Like too many Americans, I don’t always get as much sleep as I need to do a good job as a mother or as a program officer here at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

So when WNYC recently asked me to participate in a roundtable discussion about sleep with Dr. Shelby Freedman Harris and Dr. Carl W. Bazil, I hesitated; clearly, I’m no expert on the subject. But I’ve spent a large part of my career in the Foundation’s Department of Research and Evaluation, where we support research into the root causes of poor health and explore how we can accelerate improvements in health and health care. And as I thought about the studies we’ve supported over the years on behavior change and other research I’ve encountered, I realized that much of it might shed light on the national challenge of sleep deprivation.

What follows are the thoughts I shared at the WNYC panel. I’d be thrilled to hear what you think might work.

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